WHEN it comes to mountain gear which type are you? Do you make sure every piece of clothing co-ordinates or do you just grab whatever happens to be nearest and damn the fashion police?
Do you swear by certain manufacturers and stick loyally with their products or are you an opportunist who buys whenever you see a bargain?
I suspect most folk, like myself, are a mix. Good gear is essential but the highest price is not always the answer.
Some days on the hill I can be a human raccoon. You know, someone who looks as if they have been rummaging around the bins at the back of a outdoors store before heading out.
My gear has come from a wide range of sources, some bought, some gifted, some borrowed (on a long-term basis ie. never likely to be returned), and some inherited. In the last couple of years on the hills I have managed to pick up a pair of walking poles, a hat, a map and case and a compass, none of which have been reclaimed by the owners.
Just recently I met a couple on a summit who co-ordinated perfectly. They were in their 70s, both of small build, wearing matching outfits - jackets, trousers, hats, rucksacks and gaiters, the lot. Even the odd mud stain seemed to match on this Tweedledum and Tweedleshe.
It was as if they had decided recently to take up walking and had gone to a store and bought everything together. It was actually rather touching, this elderly pair ticking off peaks in perfect harmony.
They were the complete antithesis of one famous mountain guide who once revealed to me he bought all his gear from a High Street discount store.
Companies used to fall over themselves to send him their latest products and he would deliver the most scathing reviews. I don’t if they were ever able to use any of his quotes.
His wisdom was that so-called updated and ranges were merely so manufacturers could load up their prices. As he put it: “They add zip pockets to the old product and charge another £50 for the privilege. Who needs more zips? They just let in water.”
The new year, new gear, hard sell works well in skiing circles, where being seen to look good appears to be more important than the sport for many. Anyway, last year’s gear is so, well, last year, dahling.
But most walkers I know go for the mix and match look, any kind of co-ordination being a miracle of convenience rather than intent. Most of mine has been built up over years, old favourites coming out for the different seasons, some of it more than ten years old, some even older.
One of my friends who had taken a few years out for family reasons, came back into it to discover no one dressed like he did any more. Undaunted, he persevered with his breeches and knee-high wool socks until even he had to admit that sock technology had moved on from those woollen horrors that left the soles of your feet striped and red like you been standing on a hot griddle for hours.
Until recently I avoided bright colours, blacks, greys, dark blues and greens being the norm. Anyway, I like the idea that I can melt into the background like a chameleon when the balloon goes up. Try doing that in dayglo yellow.
But when it came to doing some night filming to publicise the book, I had to give way. You can’t really do night filming dressed all in black, but then I suppose it never seemed to bother Johnny Cash.
First came a red and pale grey snow suit that belonged to my daughter. It’s super warm, perfect for the high places in minus zero temperatures, and you can now pick me out from the rocks. The down side is that it is plastered in advertising for a phone company - at least it’s not cigarettes or condoms - making me look more like a racing driver.
Then there’s a luminous green jacket, again good for filming, not so good for the self-esteem. But whenever I feel the need to disappear from the world, I can always go back to black.